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Just finished reading The German Girl: A Novel by Correa. It chronicles the story of a wealthy German Jewish family in Berlin, as the Nazis arrive and make life a living hell. The family is lucky (I guess you could say this) to be allowed to purchase passage on the M.S. St. Louis, a passenger liner, to take them to “the Americas.” The destination is actually Cuba. The story is told from two voices – the teenage daughter in this story, and from a current-day distant family member who is trying to learn about her ancestry. Of the 900+ passengers on the ship, only a few were allowed to disembark since the Cuban President decided he needed more money to accept them. Most families had no money left, as the Reich had taken nearly all of their assets. The daughter and her very eccentric mother were allowed to stay in Cuba.  The remaining passengers are rejected by the U.S. too, and eventually return to Europe, where most of the Jews end up dying in concentration camps. The story goes back and forth from the 1939 journey to current day as the link between the two women is slowly revealed. I had a tough time sometimes, tracking the people in this book, but the story was very riveting. It’s based on facts about the ship (see Wikipedia link above if you’re interested). A shameful chapter in history.

Recently finished reading a magnificent historical novel. Not new. Philippa Gregory has been a favorite author of mine for a couple of decades. You may remember her most famous book, The Other Boleyn Girl, published some years ago. I thought that was a really great book. I’ve read other books by Gregory, but most recently I read The King’s Curse (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels). The time period is the 1450s to 1541, mostly under the rule of King Henry VIII, the infamous womanizer and wife/Queen-killer. The man who cursed Rome/the Pope because he wanted his first marriage annulled because Queen Catherine couldn’t produce a living male heir. And subsequently made himself the head of the church in England in order to do so. It was a Catholic country at the time. This story (it’s fiction, but woven with intricate historical detail) is from the voice of a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine, Margaret of York, later titled Countess of Salisbury, but a Plantagenet in her own right (which is key to the later events in the book). Certainly I’ve read other novels over the years that dealt with Henry VIII, but not with this much breadth of info. What a wicked, sinful man he was. And did I say tyrant. Wow.  I could hardly put it down, through its nearly 600 pages. In the author’s notes at the end, she shares relatively recent medical info that suggests Henry probably suffered from a rare problem, Kell positive blood type, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths IF the mother has the more common Kell negative blood type. And that in his later years, he may have had McLeod syndrome, a disease only found in Kell positive individuals. Around the age of 40 it causes physical degeneration and personality changes resulting in paranoia, depression and irrational behavior. All of those King Henry VIII had in spades. If you read the book, you might read the author’s notes (at the end) before reading the book. If you like historical fiction (I love any book about English history) you’ll just love this one. It’s interesting, though, as I think about the many books I’ve read covering this era in English history, that each book presented its hero/heroine as the most innocent and worthy individual vying for the crown of England. I remember thinking Anne Boleyn was dealt with so badly during her life (and certainly her beheading), and yet reading this book, I completely reversed my opinion. Anne Boleyn was called a wh–e by most people during the years she shared Henry’s bed. The “curse” from the title pertains to Henry’s inability or the curse on the Tudors, that caused him to fail in producing a male heir. In any case, none of Henry’s wives should have died for it – likely it was all Henry’s fault anyway. Just read this one, okay?

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one, too!

Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Appetizers, on March 23rd, 2016.

shrimp_toast

Chinese in origin (I think), these little appetizer tidbits of goodness are quite easy to make. What they’re not is healthy in any way, shape, or form! There’s nothing bad in the ingredients – it’s just the frying that makes them rich, decadent, but ever-so tasty.

This appetizer is the oldest cooking class recipe I have in my collection. In fact, I didn’t even have this one entered into my MasterCook program – mostly because I hadn’t made these for about 40 years. Gosh, that one fact tells you I’m “old.” When I married the first time, way back in 1962, my then husband and I lived in Washington, D.C. for about a year. I worked for the Dept. of Agriculture during that time, and spending money on cooking classes wasn’t exactly within my budget. Then we moved to Washington State for awhile, then to Denver. It was there, back in the mid-60’s that I went to my first cooking class. I have no recollection how I found out about the class (given in someone’s home), and I still have 2 recipes from a class (or maybe more than one class). This one, and a chile relleno recipe made with canned chiles. Interestingly enough, both of the recipes were cooked in an electric frypan. Those things were very popular back then. So maybe both were made that one night and the class could have been focused on how to use the electric frypan in meal preparation. The recipe, stained with age and use (way back then) had somewhat cryptic notes – not a full-on detailed recipe as we might be used to today.

A few weeks ago – when I made these – I had a Vietnamese friend of mine come to my house and prepare a Vietnamese meal for a group of my friends. I’ll tell you about that in another post. She made spring rolls and beef pho (soup, pronounced like fuh). I rounded out the meal with appetizers (these shrimp toasts) and dessert (my lemon velvet ice cream and safari seeded cookies). So, when I was trying to figure out what to make I first searched online for Vietnamese appetizers, and mostly google came up with spring rolls. Well, we were already doing those as a first course, so I had to search farther afield, and ding-ding, this recipe came to mind. Even though it’s Chinese, not Vietnamese. Made no “never mind,” as the saying goes. They disappeared in a flash.

I forgot to take any photos of the prep process, or the frying. I was kind of busy trying to get these made just as guests were arriving, so just didn’t take the time. Here’s what’s involved. First you mince up some fresh, raw shrimp, about 1/2 cup. Then you add a couple of tablespoons of minced green onion, a dash of salt, a tablespoon of sherry (wine), a tablespoon of cornstarch and lastly, just before you’re ready to start making and frying these, 2 egg whites that have been beaten up until foamy.

shrimp_toast_mustard_dipI made these a couple of nights later and used the same recipe – I just didn’t turn the little toasts over to brown the other side – so here you can see the bread (on the bottom) is still just bread. And I didn’t heed my own directions – of spreading the shrimp mixture out to all the edges, so you see the bread in the oil almost got too brown. White bread slices are used – remove the crusts, then the inner portion is cut into small squares, about 1” square. You’ll get about 6 out of each slice of bread. Meanwhile, you heat up a frying pan with oil. You don’t need but about 1/4 inch of oil. I have a nice big newer electric frypan now, and I used that because you can maintain a consistent 350° with the oil – the recipe called for peanut oil, but that stuff is so darned expensive these days, I opted to use vegetable oil instead. It takes about 10 minutes to heat the oil. Then, using a spreader/knife, you spread some (a fairly tiny dab, actually) of the shrimp/egg white mixture onto the top of the little square of bread, and each one is placed shrimp side down into the hot oil.

It takes about 30 seconds for the shrimp to be done – and the edges begin to turn golden brown. In the first batch I did fry them on the other side. If you want to reduce the amount of fat you would consume with these, just cook the shrimp side only. The bread, which is not in oil at all will still be soft. You could try it that way and taste it. Do let them cool for a couple of minutes before eating them, as they’re WAY hot! You can make these in bigger squares (like 4 per slice of bread) but I think the little bitty ones make for easier finger food. Do serve napkins as they might ooze some oil onto your hands.

In the 2nd photo you can see the mustard dipping sauce. You don’t have to use the sauce, but it was pretty darned good. It added a little “bite” to the toasts.

What’s GOOD: crunchy, tasty, little bites of shrimp goodness. Don’t use canned shrimp! I loved these things, but they’re full of fat. The nutrition info below doesn’t include the oil I cooked them in – so am sure it’s higher in calorie and fat than indicated. Don’t serve too many per person – they’re very filling.

What’s NOT: just that they must be made immediately before serving. The recipe said they can be reheated, but no, sealed up in foil they won’t be anywhere near as good (and crunchy) as fresh out of the frying pan. You don’t have to use an electric frypan – it’s just harder to maintain an even heat using a small frying pan over a flame.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click on link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Shrimp Toast with Mustard Dipping Sauce

Recipe By: From a cooking class I took in the 1970s
Serving Size: 8

6 slices white bread — crusts removed, cut into 1-inch squares (use day-old, preferably)
FILLING/TOPPING:
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons green onions — finely minced
1/2 cup fresh shrimp — (or crab) minced
1 tablespoon sherry
1 1/2 teaspoons salt — (optional)
2 whole egg whites — beaten until foamy
Peanut oil for frying (about 1/2 cup) – or vegetable oil
HOT MUSTARD SAUCE:
3 tablespoons dry mustard
rice wine vinegar – add enough to make a wet dipping sauce

1. FILLING: Combine all ingredients except the egg whites and mix thoroughly. Everything must be minced up finely. Just before you’re ready to start frying, add foamy egg whites and mix in gently, but thoroughly.
2. Prepare frying pan. Ideally, heat an electric skillet to 360° and add enough oil to about 1/4 inch deep. You may also use a neutral oil, but the peanut oil imparts a lovely flavor.
3. Spread the filling on top of each toast piece and spread to the edges.
4. When the oil is hot, fry the toasts filling side DOWN until the edges have turned golden brown, about 30-45 seconds. It’s not necessary to fry the other side, but if you prefer, you can, but it won’t take long. Remove toasts and drain on paper towel for about 5 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, mix up mustard sauce by combining the dry mustard with rice wine vinegar until it’s the consistency of a slurry. Place in a small flat plate or a wide, but small bowl for dipping.
6. Serve toasts hot with the mustard sauce.
7. LEFTOVERS: They can be reheated in foil a 300° oven for about 10 minutes – but they won’t be crispy.
Per Serving (doesn’t include the little bit of oil that will be absorbed into the toasts during frying): 88 Calories; 1g Fat (15.1% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 23mg Cholesterol; 537mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, on February 4th, 2016.

shrimp_cocktail_avocados_tomatoes_lime

An elegant appetizer, a time to use those really good, BIG shrimp that you’ve saved for a special occasion. Diced tomatoes are added in and the piquant lime juice adds a zing.

It’s been a couple of months ago now, that my friend Cherrie and I went to the Phillis Carey Diva class. She prepared this that day, and I’d forgotten all about it, to share with you. It’s very easy to make – just have good shrimp to use (none of those little bitty things, or canned),  but you don’t want or need to use the gigantic shrimp, either. In fact, you can cut the shrimp into more bite-sized pieces, so there’s no need to buy the most expensive ones. Phillis always prefers to start with raw shrimp (all the shells removed, including the tail shell) and she sautés them in olive oil. Out they go to a waiting bowl. To the skillet you add lime juice and zest, add it to the shrimp, then you add some chopped white onion, serrano chile, garlic and more olive oil. That’s really it.

Phillis prefers to serve this with some fresh chopped tomato, the avocados, of course, and garnishes it with some sliced black olives (optional) and cilantro. Serve with a lime wedge. It can be made UP to 24 hours ahead (without the avocado and tomato and garnishes, though).

What’s GOOD: well, if you’re a lover of shrimp, then you’ll be in hog-heaven. If you like ceviche (a raw fish appetizer), this kind of is similar in that the lime juice somewhat “cooks” the fish. In this recipe you do cook the shrimp completely before adding in everything else. It’s a very satisfying appetizer – good textures. Lots of flavor.

What’s NOT: probably just the cost of shrimp these days! And finding good avocados without bruises! That seems to be a challenge for me of late.

printer friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click on link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Shrimp Cocktail with Avocados, Tomatoes, Olives and Fresh Lime

Recipe By: Phillis Carey cooking class, 12/2015
Serving Size: 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds medium shrimp — cleaned, tails removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons lime zest
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup white onion — chopped
1 whole serrano chile — finely chopped (with or without seeds)
2 cloves garlic — minced
2 whole avocados — diced and rinsed with water
1 1/4 cups plum tomatoes — seeded, diced
1/2 cup black olives — sliced (optional)
1/2 cup cilantro — chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 pieces lime wedges — garnish

1. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Saute until shrimp are just barely opaque in center, about 3 minutes. Transfer shrimp and any juices to a bowl and set aside.
2. Add lime juice and zest to the skillet and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Pour over the shrimp in the bowl. Add the onion, chile, garlic and additional amount of olive oil to the shrimp. Cool to room temp before serving, or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours (no longer than that).
3. When ready to serve, gently fold in the sliced avocados, tomatoes, olives (if using) and cilantro. Spoon mixture evenly in martinii glasses or small bowls and serve with a lime wedge on the side.
Per Serving: 319 Calories; 19g Fat (52.4% calories from fat); 25g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 173mg Cholesterol; 255mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, on December 11th, 2015.

cranberry_jalapeno_salsa_appetizer

Are you ready for December entertaining? If you’d like to make a really tasty, cranberry-seasonal appetizer that’s SUPER EASY, try this cranberry salsa that has a bit of kick from jalapeno. Absolutely super.

For Thanksgiving, every year, I make my cranberry relish. It’s a raw relish, and I remember my mother making something similar one year when I was probably a teenager. I took her recipe (cranberries, oranges, sugar) and made a few additions (ground ginger and apple) and that’s been my go-to cranberry relish ever since. Now when I found THIS appetizer recipe, back in 2008, it sounded so similar to that regular raw cranberry relish, but it’s an appetizer. And it has jalapeno chile in it. And cumin. Oh, and cilantro. It’s such an unlikely combination, but it sure does work.

If you’re having a smaller crowd, make half the recipe below – I used the full 12 ounces of cranberries – and I have quite a lot of this.

What’s the best part – how EASY it is to make. First whiz up a medium jalapeno (more if you like spicy) and a couple of green onions – they need to be finely minced. Then add in the fresh cranberries, sugar, cilantro and ground cumin. Whiz that up for 15+ seconds, pulsing, maybe scraping down the sides at least once, and it’s DONE. Scoop out into a container and refrigerate it for at least a few hours, preferably overnight – which gives the sugar a chance to dissolve and the flavors to come together. If you like spice (heat) add 2 jalapenos. When I tasted it – when I made it – I thought whoa – this is going to be too hot, but when it’s spread on a cracker with cream cheese, it totally mellows out the heat. Next time I will be adding more jalapeno to it.

At least 2 hours before you’re ready to serve this take out the 8-ounce block of cream cheese and let it sit out in its package, to soften. Yes, it will be fine – and it will be soft and spreadable when that time is  up. Put it out on a serving plate and nicely spread the salsa on top and add crackers or tortilla chips and you’re done. I happened to have some of Trader Joe’s pumpkin raisin cracker/toasts which were just super with this.

What’s GOOD: everything about this is good – easy, quick, and extremely tasty. I couple of days after I made this and served it, I had it for lunch. That was my lunch – crackers, cheese (protein) and fruit, albeit with sugar added in. I’ll definitely be making this again and again.

What’s NOT: I can’t think of anything that isn’t great about this appetizer. Make it, okay?

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cranberry Salsa with Cream Cheese

Recipe By: Adapted very slightly from Cookbook Junkies (blog)
Serving Size: 10

12 ounces fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 medium jalapeno chile pepper — chopped (use more if you enjoy the heat)
2 tbsp cilantro
1 tsp ground cumin
2 green onions — chopped
8 ounces cream cheese
A cilantro leaf or two for garnish
Tortilla chips, crackers or petite toasts for serving

NOTE: make the cranberry salsa the day before, if possible, or at least 6-8 hours ahead so the sugar has time to dissolve and the flavors to meld. If you like spicy food, add more jalapeno. Some recipes call for 2 of them. If you taste the mixture you may think it’s spicy with just one jalapeno, but once you add cream cheese to the bite, you’ll hardly notice the heat from the jalapeno.
1. Allow cream cheese block to sit out at room temp (in the package) for a full 2 hours to soften.
2. SALSA: In a food processor add the jalapeno and green onions first, and whiz those up first so they’re very small. Then add all of the ingredients, except the cream cheese and blend until it’s finely minced, but so the cranberries still have just a little bit of form.
2. You can buy whipped cream cheese, or whip it yourself, or just use fully softened cream cheese and place on the plate.
3. Pour the salsa over the cream cheese and serve with tortilla chips, crackers, or petite toasts.
Per Serving: 157 Calories; 8g Fat (44.6% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 25mg Cholesterol; 69mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, on November 3rd, 2015.

safari_hummus

The chef at Sandibe (pronounced san-dee-bey), the safari camp where this was served, just called it hummus, but because peanuts are such a major player in the cuisine of Africa, I started calling it safari hummus. Instead of tahini, they used peanut butter. It’s a surprising change of flavor.

I don’t think I expected to be served hummus in Africa. Maybe in a cosmopolitan city yes, but out in the bush? Yet it was very refreshing. They served it with fresh vegetables – icy cold carrots and celery, which tasted particularly good after being out on a morning game drive. I made this the other day to take to a luncheon (my friend Cherrie had a Halloween lunch for a bunch of her girlfriends). Several people commented on it – that they liked this and hoped I would be posting it here. Here you go, friends.

The safari camps must be used to people asking for recipes for their dishes – they delivered them usually the next day after I asked. I came home with several, as I mentioned last week.

This takes no time whatsoever to make. But if you did it exactly as they made it with roasted garlic (instead of fresh, which is what I used) it would take a bit longer. It was hot the morning I made this and I just didn’t feel like roasting the garlic, easy as it is to do – I didn’t want to heat up the kitchen. I’ve left the recipe as-is, below, so you can decide whether you want to roast it or not. Do use soft peanut butter (like JIF creamy), not the natural stuff, and not any peanut butter with nut chunks in it. The hummus is made completely in the food processor – it contains a fair amount of lemon juice which gives it some tang. And there is cayenne in it too, which gives it a kick. Make it the day before if you have the time so the flavors can meld.

What’s GOOD: the peanut butter is subtle – some people could pick it out of the flavor mélange – but some couldn’t determine what was different about it. I liked the option of pureeing the first can of garbanzo beans so it’s smooth, then adding in the 2nd can and leaving some of the chunkiness there. It gives the hummus some texture.

What’s NOT: nothing at all.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click on link to open)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Safari Hummus

Recipe By: From “And Beyond” safari camps, Africa, 2015
Serving Size: 12

3 cups garbanzo beans, canned — drained, saving 1/3 cup juice
3 tablespoons roasted garlic — chopped [I used 2 large cloves of fresh garlic]
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon cumin seeds — toasted and ground
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup peanut butter — creamy, like JIF
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup Italian parsley — chopped [reserve some for garnish]
1 teaspoon salt

1. Blend half of the garbanzo beans with everything else on the list – except the parsley – in a food processor. Puree until very smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary.
2. Add the other half of the beans and process a short time – you want to have a bit of texture to the mixture.
3. Add the parsley and add some of the garbanzo bean liquid if the mixture is too thick. Scrape into a bowl and refrigerate for a few hours to blend the flavors. Serve with bread or crackers or with freshly cut vegetables (carrot sticks, celery sticks, cucumber rounds). Yield: 3 1/2 cups
Per Serving: 190 Calories; 13g Fat (57.6% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 384mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, Vegetarian, on August 11th, 2015.

fresh_tomato_bruschetta_toasts

Recently I visited with friends who live in Morrison, Colorado. Sue and her husband Lynn are foodies as I am, so Sue and I spent some time preparing lunch and dinner things. One night, after we’d been out for a nice lunch and weren’t overly hungry, we didn’t feel like having a regular, big dinner. So Sue made (with me helping just to chop up the tomatoes) these delicious bruschetta appetizers. These are different only in that fresh mozzarella cheese is toasted on the little baguette slices and THEN the bruschetta stuff is scooped on top.

When my friends used to live here in California, we frequently had one another over for dinner. We always had lively conversations, and talked about the wine we were drinking, or wines we’d had or were going to buy. And trips we had taken, were taking, or were talking about taking. My DH and I visited them a few years ago in Colorado, so there were shared memories of our previous visit.

toasts_to_toastThis appetizer took relatively little time to make, from beginning to end. A lovely baguette had been purchased the day before at a farmer’s market in Boulder, along with gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. Sue had basil growing in pots on her deck, and she had fresh mozzie. Plus some garlic, Parmesan and balsamic vinegar. You can serve this hot with a bowl of the topping, or you can serve it up freshly stacked, with napkins. It was our main course, and we ate a lot of them. Sue had gotten the recipe online at Taste of Home. I’ve renamed them, only because they’re not quite a typical bruschetta – the mozzie on the bottom makes them a bit different – a bit more substantial. So I’m calling them “toasts.” You could make them on bigger pieces of baguette or other bread and they’d be open-faced bruschetta sandwiches even. Any way you make them, they’re delicious.

What’s GOOD: these would be good even if you didn’t use the mozzie underneath, but that one thing makes them a bigger, nicer tidbit of an appetizer. Or a light lunch. These were delish, and although I don’t make bruschetta very often, if I make it in the future, I think I’ll use this recipe.

What’s NOT: well, you’ve got to have all the ingredients – the fresh mozzie, the good, ripe tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil, Italian parsley etc. If so, you’re in business!

printer-friendly PDF  and Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to open in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Fresh Tomato Bruschetta Toasts

Recipe By: From Taste of Home, but from my friend Sue
Serving Size: 12 (2 per person)

4 whole plum tomatoes — seeded and chopped (Sue used heirloom)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves — minced
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 baguette — 12″ long, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/4 cup butter — softened (optional)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella — sliced

1. In a small bowl, combine the first 10 ingredients.
2. Spread baguette slices with butter (Sue didn’t do this step – she thought the cheese was enough); top each with a cheese slice. Place on ungreased baking sheets. Broil 3-4 ” from the heat for 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
3. With a slotted spoon, top each slice with about 1 tablespoon tomato mixture. Serve immediately with napkins if you’re making this finger food.
Per Serving: 247 Calories; 14g Fat (50.8% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 22g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 30mg Cholesterol; 429mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, on June 26th, 2015.

red_onion_confit_port

Whenever I look at a scramble of caramelized onions, my mouth waters. And actually, in the picture above, the onions aren’t caramelized – they’re cooked thoroughly, but they’re tinted dark brown with aged balsamic vinegar, so they look caramelized. No matter – this onion stuff is really tasty. It didn’t take nearly as long as usual to make it because the onions only cook for about 20 minutes.

The title doesn’t tell you that there are a few prunes in this. People get so turned off about prunes – too bad, because they’re really good, and particularly so in this confit (con-FEE). With a French word like confit, it implies that it’s a French dish – and indeed it may be. By definition confit means meat (usually duck) but it can also mean any concoction that’s cooked low and slow with some kind of oil/butter/fat. In this case there’s a little olive oil and butter, but very little. And no meat.

red_onion_confit_ingredientsThe recipe had been in my to-try file for awhile (since ‘09) – I found it at Delicious:Days (a blog). She based her recipe on the original which came from a cookbook by Catherine Atkinson called Perfect Pickles, Chutneys & Relishes. So, I suppose this could be called a chutney (it would be wonderful on a turkey sandwich) or a relish (served with pork or chicken?). It is “pickled” as such because it does contain some GOOD aged balsamic vinegar – you need the acid in order to call it pickles!

There at left are all the ingredients. Hiding on the right side are the fresh thyme and the moscovado sugar. And the tall bottle is 10-year old Port. I used tawny port because that’s what I had, without using the really aged stuff that’s for sipping/drinking, not for cooking. Some people might say I should use that for cooking, but at $40 a bottle, no, I don’t think so! For drinking (which is rare, but when I want it I want it to be good stuff) I buy good Portuguese Port (from Oporto, the town in northern Portugal from whence nearly all their production comes).

The onions are cooked over low heat with the olive oil and butter for awhile, then you add in some of the ingredients and cook for about 15 minutes, then the remaining ingredients and cook for another 10-15 minutes. By then the onions are totally cooked through and the liquids have mostly evaporated and you’ll left with that unctuous tangle of onions that’s so good on a cracker or with cheese.

The recipe suggested serving it with an aged Gouda (see picture at top) and some other kind of French cheese I’d not heard of, so I bought some domestic Brie (not imported only because I thought the onions sardinian_crackers_trader_joeswould overpower the subtlety of a truly ripe and aged Brie). I scooped some of the onion mixture on top of the Brie and the rest I left in a bowl for people to scoop with the cheeses or with crackers. You could also serve it on top of cream cheese – it just wouldn’t be as authentic. Most of our group didn’t care for the onion confit with the Gouda – they either ate the Gouda with a cracker, or they ate the Brie with the onions.

The only thing I’d change in the recipe is to cut the onions in smaller pieces. Because they stick together, it was hard to manipulate a little pile of them. It was either feast or famine with too little or too much of the onion mixture on a piece of cheese or a cracker.

Currently, I’m in love with a new cracker. Have you seen these paper-thin Sardinian crackers (above) at Trader Joe’s? They’re called Pane Guttiau. In my Trader Joe’s they’re with all the other crackers on top of one of the freezer cases. Once you open the package, keep it stored in a Zipiloc plastic bag or the crackers will soften. You can’t really see through them, but they are ridiculously thin and crispy and sometimes I have one of the crackers (pictured) and a slice of cheese for my lunch.

What’s GOOD: loved the flavor of this red onion and prune mixture. It is sweet – just know that off the top – tawny Port is sweet, so I probably made it more so by using it rather than a drier style. You don’t serve very much on any one bite, but it is sweet. But then, red onions are sweet once you cook them down anyway. Next time I won’t use tawny Port. And I’ll probably eliminate the sugar altogether.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. Recipe says it only keeps for a few days. I don’t know why it wouldn’t keep for a couple of weeks. The acid and sugar should keep it fresh for awhile. If it lasts that long.

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Red Onion Confit with Port Wine and Prunes

Recipe By: inspired by Perfect Pickles by Catherine Atkinson (on Delicious Days blog)
Serving Size: 8

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil — may use up to 3
2 cups sliced red onions — sliced about 1/4″ thick and cut into smaller pieces
5 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons muscovado sugar — light brown sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup prunes — finely chopped
1/2 orange — juice only [I used all the juice as it was a small orange]
3 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar — [I used a fig balsamic which is thick and sweet like aged balsamic)
3/8 cup port wine — (use a drier Port if you can find one)
Crackers to serve alongside
Brie cheese to spread it on, if desired

Notes: this mixture is sweet.  If you want it less sweet, use a dry style Port and don’t add the sugar.  Or cut down the amount by half.  I used all of the juice of an orange, and once cooked down, it added sweetness also.  Plus, the prunes are sweet as well.
1.  Heat the butter and half of the olive oil over low to medium heat in a large pot and add the sliced and chopped onions.  Cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes while stirring occasionally.
2.  Add the thyme sprigs, the bay leaf and muscovado sugar, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Cook uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes until the onions are tender.  Again, don’t forget to occasionally stir – the onions are not supposed to gain (much) color.
3.  Add the finely chopped prunes and the liquids: the orange juice, the balsamic vinegar and the port wine.Reduce heat until the mixture slightly simmers and keep stirring regularly until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes.  Remove thyme stems and bay leaf and discard.
4.  Add the remaining olive oil to give a glossy finish and season to your own taste.  Perhaps more vinegar for an extra tangy note?  A bit more pepper to spice things up?  Keeps in the fridge for several days.  [I served it with crackers and with an aged Gouda and Brie.  We particularly liked it with the Brie.]
Per Serving: 123 Calories; 6g Fat (50.7% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 31mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, Veggies/sides, on June 22nd, 2015.

asparagus_roasted_balsamic_appetizer

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much “over” hummus. And no, this recipe has nothing to do with hummus – I’m just ranting. I’ve just had too much of it. I don’t buy it for myself, and if I’m invited to someone’s home and that’s all they serve as an appetizer, well, guess I’d eat it. But I don’t seek it out. It’s like onion dip back in the 70s, and then vegetable platters with ranch dressing. But I do like to serve vegetables in some form as an appetizer.

So, when I was invited to a dinner, our little gourmet group, I brought appetizers this time, and that meant vegetables. As I’ve mentioned many times, my recipe to-try file on my computer is huge, but since all the recipes can be sub-categorized, I went through the appetizers and found 2 to prepare. This one and a red onion confit thing which I’ll post in a few days.

I do love vegetables. We should eat them twice a day, but I don’t. I prepare them for dinner only, and if I have left overs, then yes, they get eaten with lunch or for another dinner. But we as a population don’t eat as many of them as we should (unless you are vegetarians), so that’s why I prefer taking veggies in some form as appetizers because they’re GOOD for us, and they generally don’t fill us up as heavy, creamy dips do or bread things, or even cheese (which I did serve with the other appetizer).

These asparagus were already washed and pre-trimmed, so I did nothing but oil them a little and into a hot oven they went for 8 minutes. Meanwhile, I prepared the very simple oil and butter sautéed garlic sauce (low and slow, so you don’t brown the garlic slices at all), adding in the tiny jot of soy sauce (low sodium) and balsamic vinegar at the end. Once the asparagus was roasted, this warm sauce was poured over the top, and I used my hands to roll them around in the dressing. There isn’t very much OF it, so you do need to get all the spears covered with a bit of the mixture.

Then they go into a covered container – I suppose while they’re hot they may absorb more of the flavorings. I let the container cool down on my counter top first, then the tray went in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours.

This recipe couldn’t have been easier, although I did dirty up more dishes than I’d expected in preparing it. It can also be served as a vegetable with a dinner – maybe that’s how this recipe came about (over at food.com) – somebody had left overs and decided to serve them as an appetizer.

What’s GOOD: well, that it’s a vegetable appetizer. These are tasty. Not over the top, but they were good. Next time I’d add more garlic. I’ll be eating them (the left overs) as part of my dinner, I think. Do serve them with napkins, as your fingers will get a bit oily as you pick them up to eat out of hand. Everybody thought they tasted good.

What’s NOT: only that you want to eat them with your fingers – some people don’t like that when the item is oily, and these are. Not overly so, but you must serve with napkins.

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Roasted Balsamic Garlic Asparagus Appetizer

Recipe By: from food.com
Serving Size: 6 (4 if serving as a side dish)

1 pound asparagus — medium to thick stems (not too thin)
olive oil or olive oil spray or mister
1/4 teaspoon sea salt — to taste
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper — to taste
1 teaspoon butter — not margarine
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic — peeled and sliced lengthwise into 3 pieces (amount of garlic to taste)
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
2. Trim the asparagus, then rinse, and cut about an inch off the ends, then use a vegetable peeler to take the outer layer off another inch of the remaining fibrous ends.
3. Place the trimmed asparagus in a single layer on a non-stick baking sheet, then spray with an olive oil mister or drizzle evenly with olive oil.
4. Season with the sea salt and the freshly ground pepper.
5. Bake for 8 minutes (don’t overcook). If the asparagus is thinner or thicker it may take less or more time, so adjust the baking time accordingly.
6. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over very low heat melt the butter and extra virgin olive oil.
7. Add the sliced garlic and simmer (again, over very low heat) for 5 minutes – careful not to burn. Remove from heat and add the soy sauce and balsamic. The garlic will absorb color from the liquids, so don’t be alarmed that the garlic is burned – as long as it wasn’t brown before you added it, you’ll be fine!
8. When asparagus is done, remove from the oven and place in a flat container which has an airtight cover.
9. Drizzle the balsamic mixture on the asparagus and use your hands to mix the sauce over all the spears. Cover tightly, allow to come to room temp, then place in refrigerator to chill. Please note that, at first, the asparagus is still hot in the container, and that covering them and adding the sauce at this point will continue to steam them a bit for a few minutes. Serve with napkins as you’ll be picking up the spears with your fingers.
10. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving, then place attractively on serving platter. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper on top, if desired.
Per Serving: 24 Calories; 1g Fat (49.3% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 2mg Cholesterol; 172mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, Breads, easy, on May 28th, 2015.

blooming_bread_pesto_mozzie

I thought I’d taken a photo of this when it was baked, but I guess I didn’t. This is one of those big monster loaves of bread, cut into little towers you pull off, with a mixture of pesto inside, then with oodles of mozzarella cheese all over it.

I was visiting with daughter Sara awhile back – I’d forgotten about posting this one – it was before I went on my April/May trip to Europe. Anyway, Sara invited all of her husband’s extended family over for a Sunday night dinner. I helped Sara some with preparations, and she handed me the ingredients for this, and said “go for it, Mom.”  I’d made one of these before, about 7-8 years ago, but it was a slightly different variation of the same – that older one with cream cheese and goat cheese, from an old friend, Karen. This one with mozzarella only. By far, this one was easier to make, but both were fabulous.

If you consider making this, please don’t look at the calories or fat, okay? Just know it’s probably not good for us, but it’s a treat. There were 4 children at Sara’s that day (ages 11-17) and they gobbled this up in no time flat. Most of the adults got a taste or two. Where I was sitting at Sara’s kitchen counter, it was put right in front of me, so I did get to sample more than some people did. I could have made a meal of it – in fact, after a few pieces I was almost full.

Sara bought the loaf of bread at Costco – a big, round loaf. You must buy an unsliced round loaf, then you slice it both directions in about 3/4 inch slices, but not down through the bottom crust, so it stays in place. I cut the bread too deep – it should have stood up a little bit better than it did, but hey, it made no-never-mind to the taste. You slather ready made pesto (Trader Joe’s and Costco both carry it now), then sprinkle shredded mozzarella all over it. Into an oven it goes, and once the mozzarella is fully melted, pull it out. Let it sit for a couple of minutes before serving as you could easily burn your mouth if it’s too hot. You’ll hear raves, I promise.

What’s GOOD: well, the taste! It’s delicious. The better the cheese you buy (like whole milk mozzarella, and/or mix in some provolone) the better it will taste. If you make your own pesto it’s probably better than store bought. But make it easy – buy ready made pesto, but don’t, please, buy already shredded mozzarella. You know the cheese producers put something on that so the cheese doesn’t clump. Whatever it is, it dilutes flavor, or else they don’t use very good cheese to begin with. So make it with good cheese.

What’s NOT: the only thing I can say is that the slicing and slathering is a little bit fussy, but it doesn’t take all that much time. It’s fairly straight forward and you’ll have it ready in about 10-15 minutes max. You can probably do it ahead and refrigerate it (covered) for an hour or two. It might not even need refrigeration if you made it 2 hours ahead. Don’t quote me – don’t sue me! There’s no mayo in this, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

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Bloomin’ Pesto Mozzarella Bread

Recipe By: My daughter Sara’s recipe
Serving Size: 6-8

1 loaf white bread — round, unsliced
1 cup pesto sauce — fresh (jarred, or make your own)
12 ounces mozzarella cheese — shredded
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
2. Prepare the bread: Score the bread lengthwise as you would to slice the loaf into 1/2 to 3/4″ thick slices, but do not cut through the bottom. Turn the loaf a quarter turn, and slice the bread the other direction, but only slice it to about 1″ from the bottom. You’ll end up with a whole, round loaf of little towers or fingers of bread.
3. Use a spatula or butter knife to spread pesto in all the edges and crevices, down deep in the bread.
4. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella inside the all the nooks and crannies, pushing it in so that the cheese doesn’t melt off the edges/sides.
5. Transfer the loaf to the prepared baking sheet, and bake until the pesto is bubbly and the mozzarella is melted, 15 to 17 minutes. Serve warm.
Per Serving: 394 Calories; 33g Fat (74.4% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 62mg Cholesterol; 533mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, Vegetarian, Veggies/sides, on May 6th, 2015.

grilled_veggie_antipasto

That photo doesn’t look like much. Where’s the tiny sprinkle of chopped parsley? Or maybe a green vegetable in there? Well, none. When I made this, I’d been home from my trip only a few days. I’d purchased the veggies (Trader Joe’s was out of zucchini) and chose the red bells, yellow squash and the eggplant. And then I was just so sick, making this became an afterthought. I did make it, I just didn’t eat it for about a week.

While I was in Italy, I was quite enamored with the trays and platters of grilled or roasted vegetables that were in every trattoria. Of course, each and every time we were served the antipasto, we had a big basket of bread to go along with it, and a bottle of olive oil to drizzle on anything and everything (they provide it on the table, like we do salt and pepper). So once I got home, this was the first thing I wanted to make. To figure out how the Italians do it, if it’s anything different than just rubbing oil on veggies and grilling or roasting them. My darling DH was really good at grilling sliced veggies like that, and particularly red peppers, but also zucchini and onions. I’m still far from an expert at grilling – it’s a new skill since I always had Dave to do it for me. Now it’s a hassle to me, to uncover the BBQ, clean it, oil it, heat it, stand there and watch the grilling, getting hot and sweaty, then waiting until everything cools off to put it all away (and covered) for another day. [Message to my dear DH in heaven: thank you, honey, for all the years of grilling you did for me, even weeknight dinners, and for always being willing to do it.]

I have a bunch of Italian cookbooks, and some in my upstairs, little-used bookshelves of cookbooks. I hunted and hunted for what I thought we’d had. Finally, I concluded that maybe it’s such a simple thing – just like I mentioned – oiled and grilled – that nobody considers it a “recipe” as such. I did find one recipe, though, that has you soak the veggies in an Italian vinaigrette for a day before grilling. Although I wasn’t so sure that had been done in any of my Italian samplings, I decided to try it. It’s certainly more fancy than what we had, but I figured it would be good no matter what.

Dutifully, I followed the recipe and soaked the sliced vegetables in the vinaigrette for about 24 hours. In that time the veggies soaked up just about every bit of the liquid. Because I wasn’t feeling all that great (the food poisoning I had was really kicking me down), I decided not to grill them, but to make it easier on myself, I roasted them at 350° using another recipe I’d found.

I have the most wonderful readers . . . my reader Donna W, who frequently leaves comments (bless you, Donna!) emailed to suggest that she was sure she’d seen a very simple veggie antipasto in one of Frances Mayes books, so I went looking for what books I have of hers. I don’t have her cookbook (Under the Tuscan Sun – the cookbook) but I did have Bella Tuscany, and sure enough, there’s a short paragraph in that book about a very simple grilled veggie. But by then I’d already begun marinating them, so next time I’ll try Frances’ version, which truly is grilling oiled veggies.

Baking them took about 45 minutes, turning the veggies every 15 minutes, and the eggplant was the quickest to cook through, so I removed that after 30 minutes. And although I like eggplant, the one I purchased was a fairly big one – and it was too seedy. (Next time I should try to buy the smaller, narrower ones.) I peeled it, which also takes away from the “beauty” of an eggplant. Once roasted, the eggplant takes on that kind of ugly brown look. Not pretty. In the photos I have from my trip, the eggplant was definitely done on a grill (grill marks visible) and it was definitely very fresh, because the flesh is still white-ish, not brown or gray. So, I suppose the eggplant was cooked over a medium hot grill – the interior was soft and silky smooth, but the outside still retained its shape. Next time I’d not marinate the eggplant at all.

Also, I must have been too liberal with the acid in the vinaigrette (red wine vinegar and lemon juice) so I needed to drizzle a bit more olive oil onto the veggies once they were done.

What’s GOOD: these were good, but I won’t say they were exceptional. Maybe when I was in Italy I was enamored with the moment, the thrill of being in Italy, eating in different little places every single day, exploring the varieties of vegetables they did grill or roast – like leeks and long-cooked cippolini onions. The other thing is that the vegetables grown in Italy may very well be more tasty than what we can buy here. I think organic veggies usually have better flavor, but I don’t think that’s what I bought here. Europeans are much more veggie-pure, I’ll call it – they are looking for flavor, not fertilizing for size and greedy prices! As I mentioned, next time I’m going to just oil and grill using a different, much more simplified recipe and I’ll try organic too.  I added more herbs (I had only dried, not fresh) and totally forgot the parsley at the end. In most of the trattorias they served red bell peppers, sometimes green ones, small eggplant and zucchini. Sometimes whole tomatoes also. Never yellow squash. It probably wasn’t in season yet.

What’s NOT: I didn’t think the vinaigrette added that much to the dish. Maybe my palate was still “off,” also because of my food poisoning I was still recovering from when I finally ate this. It may not have been the fault of the veggies or the marinating. Guess I won’t know until I do this again. I have some zucchini in the refrigerator right now, so perhaps I’ll try them, just them, and see how I do, if I like it better.

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Roasted Vegetable Antipasto

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Foodgeeks blog.
Serving Size: 4

1/3 cup olive oil — or a little more as needed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh basil
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon crumbled dried thyme
2 cloves garlic — minced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh parsley — minced
Salt and Pepper to taste
VEGETABLES:
1 small yellow squash
1 zucchini
1 small eggplant — buy the small, thinner ones
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 yellow bell pepper
1/2 large red onion
Fresh parsley for garnish — minced
Parmesan cheese shavings, optional
More olive oil drizzled on top, if desired

1. Mix all ingredients of the marinade in a heavy-duty plastic Ziploc bag and squish so it’s well blended.
2. Trim all vegetables and slice lengthwise in ¼-inch thick slices. Add the sliced vegetables to the marinade bag, making sure all the vegetables have had contact with the marinade. Let stand, covered and chilled for at least 4 hours or overnight.
3. Turn the bag of vegetables occasionally to ensure they stay coated with the marinade. Before cooking, drain the vegetables, reserving the marinade.
4. GRILL: Heat a grill pan over moderately high heat until hot. Add vegetables and grill, in batches, for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until tender. Transfer vegetables to a serving platter, drizzle with remaining marinade and sprinkle with parsley, olives and Parmesan shavings. OR ROAST: roast the vegetables in a single layer, on parchment paper, in a 350°F oven, turning the pieces over every 15 minutes. The eggplant will take about 30 minutes or less, the others about 45 minutes. Allow to cool, decoratively place the vegetables on a serving platter, taste for seasonings (like more salt and pepper) drizzle the remaining marinade over the top and garnish with parsley, cheese and more olive oil if needed.
Per Serving: 224 Calories; 19g Fat (70.1% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 31mg Sodium.

Posted in Appetizers, on March 28th, 2015.

red_bell_pepper_balsamic_crostini

When you serve an appetizer, I’m always looking for a new way to serve a vegetable rather than cheese (although I must say, serving cheese is a fall-back for any dinner party if I run out of time). Here you’ll get some peppers in a balsamic vinaigrette kind of thing and they’re really delish on top of a little piece of toast. I used ciabatta bread.

Eat our vegetables! Isn’t that the mantra? As a single person now, I buy fresh veggies, and at least half the time I forget about them, or I just end up not cooking for several nights in a row and suddenly they’re over the hill. So I’ve kind of decided not to buy fresh veggies unless I truly know I’m going to prepare them that night or the next one. A week or so ago I had a package of yellow crookneck squash, a bunch of asparagus and mushrooms. I ended up cooking them all together (adding the thin asparagus in the last 4-5 minutes of cooking) with shallots, half of an onion, a bunch of dried thyme and oregano, and adding in a little pat of butter at the end. Well, I ate that for about 4 meals. Once it was cooked, it kept in the frig for over a week, and I had the last of it last night with a tiny bit of left over pork chop from over a week ago also. That was dinner, and it was wonderful. My food buying and my eating habits have changed, that’s for sure!

Anyway, since we all know we should eat more veggies, make an appetizer that contains some, if at all possible. And here, that’s exactly what works. If you don’t count the bread/toast! The peppers are broiled and Diane Phillips used a little different method here – she roasted them under the broiler, turning them to blacken the skins on all sides, then she turned the oven OFF, and let the pan just sit there for about an hour. That accomplishes the same thing as putting them in a plastic bag to soften the charred skins. The blackened skins came right off. Then you slice them thinly and marinate them in a balsamic vinaigrette and garlic. One thing to remember: don’t smash or mince the garlic. It doesn’t get cooked, so you want to slice the garlic so it can be easily removed before serving. The peppers are left out at room temp for 2-8 hours, then drain off the dressing (and keep it – it will work fine for a salad) and serve with toasted baguette slices or in my case I used ciabatta. Do use good balsamic for this – not the ancient aged stuff, but at least buy and use one that aged for 15 years. You’ll notice the difference.

What’s GOOD: the peppers have a wonderful umami taste – at least I think they do. I’m not so sure that red bells are on the “master list” of umami flavors, but with the addition of balsamic (which is an umami) you get a double-whammy of sharp, pungent flavors (good type, though). I could have made that my dinner, except for eating all of the carbs! It will keep for a few days if you don’t eat it all.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Make only as much as you think you’ll consume. It should keep for a few days, but probably not more than that. They’ll begin to turn to mush in the vinaigrette, I think.

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Roasted Red Bell Peppers in Balsamic Vinegar

Recipe By: Diane Phillips, cooking instructor and cookbook author, 2015
Serving Size: 10

4 large red bell peppers
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar — (use good quality, aged) or more if needed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 medium garlic cloves — very thinly sliced (will be removed later)
Crostini, for serving

1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and preheat the broiler.
2. Wash the peppers and remove any stickers. Place them on one flatter side on the baking sheet and broil, turning them once or twice to char them evenly on all sides. Watch carefully.
3. When they’re blackened, turn off the broiler, close oven door and allow them to rest in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The steam formed in the oven will help you to remove the skins more easily.
4. Remove the peppers from the oven and when they are cool enough to handle, remove skins (use disposable gloves if desired).
5. Remove core, seeds, then slice into strips and place in a medium-sized bowl. Stir in oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and sliced garlic. Mix. MAKE AHEAD: can be made up to 8 hours ahead, but they need to sit for at least 2 hours to meld the flavors, covered, at room temperature.
6. Taste for seasonings. Remove garlic slivers and pour into a small serving bowl. Serve with crostini and a fork to put the slices on the bread more easily.
Per Serving: 158 Calories; 16g Fat (89.7% calories from fat); trace Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 214mg Sodium.

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